The Writer's Life

The Pain of Judgement and the Joy of Constructive Criticism


I retired to bed last night, intending to wake early and write all day. Instead, I awoke to my sister requesting my services as an Aunt for the day. How could I resist the cute chubby cheeks of my six-month-old nephew? Still groggy and a little disappointed that I had to put off writing for another day, I vowed that I would spend time on the written word tonight when my husband left for work. So here I sit, writing while listening to one of my most inspirational in-your-face albums by Pink.

Even at this hour, as I relax on my lounger below the picture window of my second-story bedroom, I look out into the darkness to see the clouds part above the tree line as they reveal the shimmer of a waning moon. I recall a telephone conversation I had received earlier today. In the depths of despair, another human being reached out to me to express his darkest deeds because he felt that hiding them would ruin friendships he was working hard to establish and rebuild.

I commended his honesty and thanked him for trusting me with this information. I noticed that it was difficult for him to share these details of his life with me, but I listened unobtrusively without judgment. After all, if we have our own shameful moments, how can we judge another? Even the moon reveals its scars and imperfections when the clouds lift away, and we stand in awe at its own boldness and honesty.

It disturbs me that this world is quick to judge. So many of us are afraid to express our opinions or stand up for our rights for fear of judgment, a most powerful topic discussed in this week’s writer’s group. Even as writers, we fear to share our work in which we had poured out our hearts and soul because we are afraid of others judging us. Some of us fail to understand constructive criticism, whether we are giving it or on the receiving end of it.

I admit that I immediately feel hurt when someone utters those dreadful words. However, my years as a musician have taught me to step back and analyze what the other person said. Did they complement my work? What was good about it? What did they like most?

If I can narrow down the positives, I begin to feel better about the critique that I had just received. Then I take a look at what needs work. I don’t look at it as a negative. Instead, I view it as a learning tool that teaches me how to improve myself and my work. Once I have accomplished this, those initial painful feelings seem to dwindle and become a meaningless blob. Then, I can tackle what needs to be done to perfect my creation.

When I critique others, I try to find a positive for every critique. I have discovered that others, like me, thrive on positive feedback, even when accompanied by something that is not as pleasant. A supervisor who does not give her employees positive feedback sets them up for failure. It is the supervisor’s responsibility to keep up her employees’ morale. Just like the supervisor, it is the responsibility of a writer to keep up the morale of her fellow writers to ensure success among her peers.

If we continue to judge each other and knock them down for their shameful deeds, we will not succeed in accomplishing our goals. What we have done in the past was precisely that; in the past. Some of us have paid our dues, while others still pay them. The greatest artists in this world were of questionable behavior in their time. However, those great minds still reside in our history books for future generations to learn and grow. They were able to share their pain and struggles, giving us something to latch on to in our own darkest hours.

Let us continue to learn from them and each other as we better ourselves and our work for future generations.